ASU hockey loses 3-2 to Mercyhurst in 2019-20 season opener

Despite outshooting the Lakers 35-23, the Sun Devils fell short in their season debut

The Sun Devil men's hockey team lost the Mercyhurst Lakers 3-2 in their season opener at Oceanside Ice Arena on Saturday night.

Mercyhurst scored a go-ahead goal with 18.4 seconds remaining in the game off a deflection in front of the net from freshman defenseman Owen Norton

The final period of the game featured eight total penalty calls that gave both teams multiple scoring opportunities to pull in the lead.

Mercyhurst's second tally came off a defensive breakdown in front of the net that allowed the Lakers to tie the game with just under two and a half minutes left in the contest.

"We played a really good last two periods," head coach Greg Powers said. " We were in complete control of the game. They got a fortuitous call and we fanned on a clear in front and they got a bounce. It’s just one of those things."

The Sun Devils fell in a hole early, allowing the Lakers to score the first goal of the night 6:09 into the first period. 

Just over two and a half minutes later, forward Willie Knierim scored a five-hole goal off a great cross-ice feed from sophomore defenseman Josh Maniscalco. The goal was Knierim's first in a Sun Devil uniform. 

"Willie was good," Powers said of the junior forward. "It was a nice goal to get him going. He’s going to be a good player for us.” 

After two quick goals to open the first period, neither team found the back of the net until midway through the third period. 

ASU took the lead at 8:47 into the third with a goal scored at the point by senior captain Brinson Pasichnuk, with assists from junior forwards Johnny Walker and James Sanchez

Despite the Sun Devils' go-ahead goal, the Lakers were able to score twice in the final three minutes of the game to pull ahead of ASU.

“It was a loss that we didn’t see coming," Powers said. "We felt like we were in clear control of the game, especially when we took the lead and they weren’t generating anything offensively on us and we were in control of the game. But they got some bounces and they won.”

ASU goaltender Evan DeBrouwer made his first NCAA start after getting the nod from Powers. DeBrouwer made 20 saves in the game, including nine in the opening period.

“I thought he was pretty good," Powers said of the netminder. "He made the saves that he had to make. It would’ve been nice to come up with one more big one there in the third, but it’s tough."

DeBrouwer, a sophomore, is the only current ASU goaltender who was on the Sun Devils' roster last season and knows that there's more to improve after the loss.

"I'm pretty disappointed right now," he said. "I think any time you're three minutes away from having a really good night and it turns in the opposite direction, you're (going to be) pretty disappointed."

One of the bright spots of the game for ASU was its penalty killing, which stopped all but one of the Lakers' man-advantage opportunities.

"They were awesome," DeBrouwer said. "Except for that crazy bounce at the end, they were so good. (They blocked) a lot of shots, and let me see the ones that we're easier to save." 

The penalty-killing unit, as well as the defense, held the Lakers to just 23 shots in the game. The Sun Devils had 35. ASU also outplayed Mercyhurst in the face-off category, winning 34 of 63 total draws.

After losing the opening game of the season, DeBrouwer knows it's important to refocus and keep composure for the next matchup.

"There are a lot of good things to take away from tonight," he said. "That's hockey. We got a taste of our own medicine here tonight, but there's no doubt in my mind that we're going to come out here tomorrow and it's going to be a different story."

The Sun Devils will face the Lakers for the second of the two-game series on Sunday at 3 p.m. MST.


Reach the reporter at aklatsky@asu.edu and follow @averyklatsky on Twitter. 

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